Mean Gene
Mean Gene
Pittsburgh's most decorated poker blogger, which I admit is like being the best shortstop in Greenland

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My Articles

Presto, the Arlo, & the Hammer
An Online Code of Conduct
The Ethics of Ratholing
"The Professor, the Banker..."
"Ace on the River"

My Columns

Lose the Shades
If You Can't Say Something Nice
Whither the Kicker
The Lady is a Champ?
Covering the WSOP (or not)
Statistics, Luck, and Poker
Poker and New Orleans
Managing a Bankroll
How To Tell A Bad Beat Story
Telling Lies
The Power of Poker Tracker
Advanced Card-Handling

My Greatest Hits

5 Things To Do Before I Die
Cafeteria Nostalgia
Mean Gene's Dubious Dating Tips
Poker and Business?
There's No Such Thing As Luck?
Isabelle, Je t'adore
No Shirt No Shoes No Service
Well, The Food Was Good
Good Morning, Mr. Matusow!
The Weekend of our Discontent, I
The Weekend of our Discontent, II
Books That Left Their Mark
Ode to a Fish Sandwich
Bill Simmons Ain't the Poker Guy
The Sports Guy Still Ain't the Poker Guy
Again, The Media Tackles Poker
Five Years After 9/11
Hitting Pretty Girls in the Face
Sixth-Graders Suck

Fellow Poker Bloggers

Guinness and Poker
Cards Speak
Tao of Poker
Up for Poker
Boy Genius
Chris Halverson
Poker Grub
The Fat Guy
Todd Commish
Poker Works
Bill Rini
Bad Blood
Love and Casino War
Double As
Lion Tales
Paul Phillips
Daniel Negreanu
Poker Nerd
Poker Nation
Poker in Arrears
Human Head
Sound of a Suckout
Chicks With Chips
TP's Table Talk
Royal Poker
This is Not A Poker Blog
Chick and a Chair
Go Be Rude
Poker Cheapskate
Poker & Other Stuff
Seven Two
Musical Poker
WPBT Online
Isabelle Mercier
Cardschat Blog
Amy Calistri
BJ Nemeth
Annie's Blog

Poker Sites

Cardschat Poker Forum
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    Sunday, April 25, 2004

    Coming soon--why the NFL sucks

    As Iggy would say, an uber post about our trip to NYC is in the works and will be posted as soon as I get around to writing the damn thing. Hopefully today or tomorrow. But before I tell the tale of my trip to the NFL Draft, let me say first that the death of Pat Tillman makes the ranting and crying to follow pale into insignificance. Tillman has been described in the media as a "true hero", and for a change they're absolutely correct. Tillman walked away from a job that was a dream of his since he was a kid, walked away from fame and millions of dollars, to join the fight against global terrorism. Tillman could have joined the Army and used his celebrity to become a recruiter, but that wasn't why he joined. He joined the Army, and the Rangers, because he wanted to take the fight personally to those who think mass murder is acceptable political discourse. For that sacrifice alone he and all those who are fighting deserve our everlasting respect. Tillman's death, and the death of every soldier fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere around the world, reminds us again and again that the freedom and liberty we enjoy come with a price--our willingness to make personal sacrifices for the common good. Sometimes our soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice, and it should break our hearts to hear such terrible news--but the fight must go on. Fighting against people who advocate theological slavery and consider suicide an acceptable use of their children's lives is as noble a cause as one could imagine. Pat Tillman died a hero, fighting for a heroic cause.

    There's been talk that the NFL should create an award in his honor. The idea is pure folly--what active player could ever hope to live up to his example?

    OK, that's the serious stuff dealt with. Stay tuned for the insanity and inanity to follow. Here's a sneak preview--the trip was a disaster, but I had a blast anyway. How's that for foreshadowing?

    Thursday, April 22, 2004

    Why Communism is the greatest economic system

    That got your attention, didn't it? Now you think I'm some pinko-subversive-Berkeley-treehugging-Trotskyite-unpatriotic slimeball. Nothing like praising Karl Marx to get your typical American all hot and bothered. Maybe you're thanking the heavens that I suspended my Presidential campaign after all. No, dear readers. I'm not a Communist. I think you only need to look at nations unfortunate to live under Communist rule to know that it don't work too good. As P.J. O'Rourke once wrote, Communism in Easten Europe collapsed, in large part, because no one in the Warsaw Pact wanted to wear Bulgarian shoes. You don't get a lot of entrepreneurship in places where Marxist theology holds forth. Not a lot of choices. I doubt Pyongyang has too many good Mexican restaurants. When was the last time you heard about an exciting advance in polymer chemistry coming out of Havana? No, communism sucks, and if capitalism is not without it's faults, at least I know I can get a decent taco when I want one.

    No, I praise communism because this Saturday I'll be attending an event that is a celebration of iron-fisted central planning and a refutation of entrepreneurship, competition, and personal economic freedom. I am of course talking about the NFL Draft, which I'll be attending Saturday.

    If you look at the NFL not as a sport but simply as a big business, you can quickly see that there ain't much at all capitalistic about the way it's run. Young workers entering the labor market this Saturday will have little or no say about where they will be plying their trade. If the team from Arizona selects you, you must go play in Arizona, even if playing football in Arizona is like, well, playing in the Third Circle of Hell. What's even more unfair is that the very best players, those who are considered to be the most talented and with the best futures, are usually forced to work for those firms (teams) who are the weakest and most incompetently run. You might think that the very best teams would be rewarded for their success by getting first dibs on the most promising young players, but instead the situation is reversed. The NFL calls this "competitive balance" and is a cornerstone of the League's success. I call it "rewarding the stupid". Think about it-- when young MBA's hatch from the nation's elite B-schools, they head for the big consulting firms, the elite Fortune 500 companies, or the sexiest startups. You don't see Bob Whartongrad and Suzie Harvardhoncho taking jobs with Amtrack and Chi-Chis and Disney because those companies stink so bad.

    Aha, but MG, the higher the player is drafted, the more money he makes, and that's definitely outside Marxist dogma. OK, I'll give you that, and I'll won't even bring up the fact that the salary cap makes that argument about 1/3 as effective. But then there's also the process known as "slotting", whereby the market for rookies is set by the first overall pick, who makes a little more than the second pick, who makes a little bit more than the third pick, and so on. Players who think they deserve more than a higher pick because they're a better and more valuable asset are almost inevitably headed for a holdout. It doesn't matter how good you are, or that you went #13 instead of #11 because the teams in between were already loaded at your position. You get paid according to your slot, not your ability. Hardly the American Dream, that.

    The fact that these guys are going to be making millions doesn't make a whit of difference. Maybe it makes listening to players whine about not getting enough respect harder to take, but what corporate slave doesn't complain about a lack of recognition? And what corporate slave, if offered more money by a rival company, wouldn't bolt in a second, pausing only to lift a middle finger toward their former boss?

    So we agree that the NFL, and the Draft in particular, share more similarities with communism than capitalism. Well, maybe we don't agree, but go get stuffed. Thing is, I love the draft, and the NFL, and so, QED, communism is better than capitalism. But then I start thinking about Bulgarian footwear, and Cuban chemistry, and the fact that I can get Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian, German and Polish food within a 15 minute drive, and that doesn't even include a few places that make a mean chicken wing. So maybe this deserves deeper thought.

    Who do I want my Steelers to select? My number one hope is Phillip Rivers, but with Eli Manning deciding to kick off his NFL career by being a dick it's likely San Diego will trade down a few spots and pick up Rivers at #4 or #7. If not Rivers, then Ben Roethelsberger, who I also prefer over Manning. If not those two, and assuming Robert Gallery won't be around, I think DeAngelo Hall, though at that point a trade down would be A-OK. I'm not sure I would want the Steelers trading up to #6 to get one of the QBs, but it depends on the price. It promises to be an interesting afternoon. Hope to hell we get in, but as we're going to get there at like 4AM it should happen.

    How will you know me if you see me? I'll be the big guy with brown hair wearing a #36 Bettis jersey next to a guy wearing a #9 jersey. I'll be waving a Terrible Towel and making lots of bad noise. Keep your eyes open.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    Losing my Big Apple cherry

    With swimsuit season just a few weeks away, it finally hit me that now might be a good time to start maybe thinking about losing some weight. I'd like to lose, oh, 50 pounds, but it's a bit hard to do that when you spend pretty about 23 hours per day sitting and/or lying down. I get out of bed, drive to work, sit in a cube for 9 hours, drive home, eat dinner, and then write and/or play poker while watching TV. Pretty much the most physically demanding part of my day is brushing my teeth. That's bad.

    I play a lot of volleyball in the summer, and I'd like to keep the "beached whale" jokes to a minimum this year. While I won't be svelte come Memorial Day, in six weeks I'd like to think I could lose a few pounds and get my ass in gear for the rest of the year. So I made a pact with myself--no poker until I lose five pounds. At first I thought about making it ten pounds, but that could take like 2 months, and I'll be climbing the walls by then. I'll still play in the Sunday night tournaments, and I may try to have a home game this Saturday, and I'll be playing with my family in 3 weeks, but no more nightly 2 hours sessions at Party. Not until I drop a few.

    During my hiatus I plan on doing a lot more writing and reading about poker, so I won't abstain completely. I want to get the new edition of Cloutier and McEvoy's book, so I plan on coming back to the tables in a few weeks a Mean yet Lean Gene. Well, leaner, relatively speaking.

    While I'll still be writing about poker here, I will take on other subjects from time to time that may interest those who read this blog. One topic that I've read about on other bloggers site is the upcoming NFL Draft, an event that I have long been devoted to. Only one team can win the Super Bowl, but on Draft Day every team can come out a winner. The fresh-faced endomorph your team selects could be the missing piece of the puzzle, and maybe that sleeper pick in will beat out the underachieving jerk they took in the first round three years ago.

    I've always loved the draft. Before it was moved to the weekend I always seemed to get sick on Draft Day, until my mom finally figured out that late April was not generally considered flu season. One year she put her foot down and insisted I go to school, meaning I had to wait until I got home to find out that the Steelers had drafted one John Rienstra, a hulk from Temple who never did much for the Black and Gold.

    My Steelers have had a rather checkered draft history in the past 15 years or so. I remember hoping and praying that Rod Woodson would last until the Steelers picked at #10, knowing full well that there weren't 9 teams stupid enough to let him slip by. I was in study hall when a girl I knew said that she heard we picked some guy named Woody something, and when I asked her if the name could be "Woodson" she squealed that I was squeezing her shoulders too hard. That was a good pick. Then while I was in college the Steelers selected celebrated stiffs like Aaron Jones, Tim Worley, and Tom Ricketts. Merely mention the name "Huey Richardson" and the average Steeler fan recoils like a vampire confronting garlic. I think it was during our senior year of college when we traded down with Dallas, picking up an extra third round pick. The Steelers rarely traded down, so we liked this sudden flexibility, and the extra third-rounder was nice. With those picks we drafted the underachieving Eric Green and the anonymous Craig Veazey. With their pick the much-loathed Cowboys drafted Emmit Smith. It gives me a pain to think of it.

    There have been good moments as well. I was helping my buddy Mark install an air-conditioner when it came the Steelers pick in the 2nd round. We'd already filled a need with tight end Mark Bruener, and there was one player we both desperately wanted. "Kordell!" we both shouted at the screen. I think it was Gene Washington who strode to the podium and announced, "The Pittsburgh Steelers selected, from the University of Colorado, quarterback...". We didn't hear his name because we already going nuts. Kordell Stewart had a star-crossed career with the Steelers, but his rookie year was absolutely magical, Stewart running and throwing and catching and even punting from time to time.

    Last year Mark and I went to Heinz Field to watch the draft on the Jumbotron and enjoy some festivities. It was cold and rainy and by the time the Steelers traded up for Troy Polamalu we were about ready to retire to Mark's place and catch the rest of the draft in comfort. As fun as the Draft is for the hard-core sports nut, it's also like what a Vietnam veteran once said about going out into the boonies on patrol--hours of extreme boredom, followed by minutes of extreme terror. Well, there's no terror in the draft, unless you're name is called while the Arizona Cardinals on the clock, but mostly the draft is sitting around, listening to Chris Berman and Mel Kiper and a cast of thousands talk about the pick that, any minute now, will be forthcoming. Any minute now. Really. Promise.

    Teams get fifteen minutes to make their pick, and most teams take every goddam second of their alloted time. Some, like the Minnesota Vikings did last year, take more than their alloted time, allowing other teams to run up to the podium and turn in their selection. Those fifteen minutes, repeated over and over again during the first round, turn the draft into an excruciating is-it-Christmas-yet test of patience. I'm an extremely patient person. I'm patient to the point of sloth. But when your team has the 23rd pick and it takes 3 hours to get through the first 12 picks its hard not to want to hit the fast-forward button in the hopes that the remote has somehow become a kind of temporal-accelerator.

    But I'm still a draftnik, still follow it religiously. And, like any true believer, once in your lifetime you must make a pilgramage. Every Muslim is instructed to visit Mecca at least once. Many Jews and Christians trek to the Holy Land to see for their own eyes the places mentioned in their sacred texts. And so, this year, I am making my own pilgramage. This Saturday, I'm going to New York City. I'm going to Madison Square Garden. I'm going to the Draft.

    I'm excited about going, for more reasons than one. We'll be staying with our friend Ro, who's pregnant and whom I haven't seen, pregnant or otherwise, in a couple of years. We can get in touch with our feminine sides cooing over her before we strap on our skates and head to Manhattan to cavort in the testosterone-soaked and female-unfriendly confines of Madison Square Garden. Going to the most famous sporting arena in the world (apologies to Old Trafford, the Nou Camp, and the Rose Bowl) is exciting enough, but I've never, ever been to New York City before. And for a Provincial like me, going to NYC is something akin to taking a trip to Mars.

    I've seen pictures of New York, of course. I've read The New Yorker for 20 years. But I cannot get my mind around the reality of New York. I mean, I've never been to the Grand Canyon and Mt. Everest, but I can get a good idea what they're like from pictures and reading about them. But New York is just too big. I mean, people LIVE in Manhattan? They have houses? I somehow picture Manhattan as...I dunno, all skyscrapers and four-star restaurant, with a fair sprinkling of crack dens.

    I'm actually sort of frightened about going to New York without an armed escort. I mean, won't the natives see that I'm a tourist and start deciding among themselves who will take my watch, my wallet, my liver? My friend Matt, who went to NYU Film School and, therefore, lived in the city, loves it and says I have no need to fear for my life. He'll be in New York this weekend as well, as he is doing a short film for a contest sponsored by Esquire. He's going on movie business, I'm going to watch what is a glorified slave auction. I feel so dirty. Maybe I deserve to be mugged.

    We're taking the train into Grand Central and then the subway to MSG. I'd like to bring my Glock along as backup, but as I don't own a Glock that's a bit difficult. The fact that millions of people take the subway every year and only a few hundred thousand are the victims of crime doesn't make me feel any better (Statistics provided by the Institute of Irresponsible People).

    We'll be going around 5AM, so as to get there in time to defintely get a ticket to get in. Five will get you ten it'll rain. Gonna be a long, long day--up at around 4AM, wait 3 hours to get tickets, wait an hour to get in, wait an 2 hours for the draft, wait 5 hours for the first round to finish. Oof.

    But I can't wait. New York City. I'm from Pittsburgh, which is about 1/900 the size of New York. I mean, it's no big deal to walk from one end of Dahntahn Pittsburgh to the other. You can park across the river at Stations Square and walk into town, you can park in the Strip District outside downtown proper and walk anywhere in the city, as I did when I worked there. But Manhattan (I know, New York is much more than just Manhattan, but let me break in slowly, OK?) makes the Friendly City seem like some backwater burgh where running water is the latest rage.

    Pittsburgh and Pittsburghers have an inherent inferiority complex. Ours is a beautiful city, much cleaned up now that the steel mills are all, alas, gone. We have the rivers, the bridges, and a long and occasionally noteworthy history. It's a great place to live, not at all expensive. But compared to "real" cities, like Boston and Chicago and LA and, yes, New York, well, we don't compare. And while your typical Pittsburgher would immediately defend our city against any and all slights from those Big-City types, we also know deep inside that ours is not one of the world's great metropolises. And that's OK. Just don't rub it in our faces, or you're going swimming in the Mon.

    Back to the draft. I'll be writing more about it this week, put up my mock draft (and, knowing me, expect the emphasis on "mock") and I'll be taking my notebook and tape recorder with me to write and report while I'm there. I'm gonna try to write something for publication about my adventure (and so I can write off the trip as a business expense, wink wink) and I'll be posting a Bill Simmons-style Draft Diary when I get back. It promises to be a great time.

    Sunday, April 11, 2004

    There's no such thing as luck? Convince someone who's unlucky.

    I took statistics in both college and B-school, and found the subject fascinating. Not because I understood stats too well, mind you--I was an English major, and math is to me what grammar and syntax would be to, oh, Jessica Simpson. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on myself there, because I did get B's both times. Not that I deserved the grade I got in business school, as our final was a group project and one of my teammates was an absolutely gorgeous young woman who was also a part-time aerobics teacher and obviously made our male professor think of statistics like 36-24-36. But I digress.

    Statistics is defined as "the mathematics of the collection, organization, and interpretation of numerical data, especially the analysis of population characteristics by inference from sampling". It can also be described in much more simplistic terms (the kind of terms I generally prefer) as the study of probability. In B-school we used a computer program that would gobble up data and spit out analyses of almost oracular insight. I didn't quite understand what the program was telling me, and to be perfectly honest I don't know if I really believed it. If I understood ideas like standard deviation, other concepts like regression and multicullinarity struck me as akin to astrology, or voodoo. I accepted what the computer told me because it would make the teacher happy, but I really didn't buy what the program was selling. The idea that I could feed the computer 10,000 data points about seven different attributes and the program could tell you which of those attributes affected the others and which didn't...sorry, but the soft, wet computer inside my skull had trouble accepting that.

    And that's why, for me at least, statistics can also be defined as "the mathematics of proving that your intution, your guts, or your hunches, are total bullshit". Statistics can tell you how likely an event is to happen--but whether you believe those numbers is another thing altogether. If you flip a coin twenty times, and it comes up heads twenty times, the probabilty that it will come up heads the twenty-first time is fifty-fifty. That's the math. Those are the facts. But in your heart of hearts, in your very marrow, don't you think that, doggone it, tails are due? OK, maybe not the very next flip, but pretty soon, you're gonna see a tail. No matter that the odds are exactly even every time you flip--you're gonna see some tail.

    Let's take an example we poker players can better appreciate. You have an open-end straight draw. You need one of eight cards to make your straight. The odds are approximately 32% you'll hit your card. But you're on a rush. You've been catching cards out the wazoo. When you need a card, you get it. You wait for the turn, and when your card appears it's no big surprise. You expected it. You expected it because, well, you're a good poker player. Good poker players play the odds and make savvy decisions. You rake in the pot and nod modestly to the other players, acknowledging that, this time, you got a little lucky.

    Play the same hand three weeks later. You haven't hit a straight since that miracle hand 21 days ago, when you actually won a pot now and then. You've lost 87% of your bankroll. Other players won't make eye contact with you, for fear that whatever you have is contagious. You flop an open-end straight draw. There are eight cards to make your straight. The odds are approximately 32% you'll hit your card. But, come on. The odds are really 200,000-1. There's no way your card will come up. Or, if it does, that'll be the card that give the other guy his flush. You're actually hoping your card doesn't come, because it will prove what you already know. That you're a terrible poker player. That you're a loser. That God, in whatever His form, hates you.

    I don't think God hates anyone, or if He does, he would manifest His malice a bit more directly than by denying you a poker hand. Blaspheming against the Almighty because you didn't make your straight seems a bit whiny when you consider events like the Holocaust, the Gulag Archipelago, and the Black Death. But it does seem within your rights to complain to someone. If mathematics is the language of the Universe, then having your pocket aces busted time and time again seems like some kind of cosmically extended middle finger. If you keep taking beat after beat after beat, it seems to make a lie out of statistical probability. And if you can't count on the math, well, what in the world CAN you count on?

    The explaination you hear a lot is "variance". While you would expect a flipped coin to, on average, come up heads half the time, at times heads will come up more than its fair share. Over the long haul, over a long enough sampling period, things will even out. Maybe right now you can't win a hand, but that's just short-term variance. If you're playing better than the other guys, things will even out, and you'll win your money back and more. That's why every poker book out there says that even the greatest players go through tough times, and that how you react to those bad runs in large part defines your overall success.

    This, again, makes perfect sense. And it's comforting to think that, even though you haven't had a winning session since September, the worm will turn any day now and you'll start winning again. Any day now. Maybe even tomorrow. Or the day after. But soon.

    But how big a sample is big enough? Five hundred hands? A million? Five hundred quadrillion? Statistics also teachers that there is what is called a "statistically significant sample", meaning enough data points have been collected to make predictions reasonably valid. This is what allows the Nielsen people to put monitors in a few thousand US households and ensure that no good show lasts more than 7 episodes. There's no need to put monitors in every American living room--the small sample they use provides enough data to accurately show that our nation has banal, pedestrian tastes.

    And so, again, the poker player is often presented with what looks to either be a paradox or a theoretical kick in the nuts. I'm playing well, the unfortunate rounder cries, so how come these fishy bastards keeping killing me with J-6 offsuit when I only play premium hands? The obvious answer is that your typical poker player is a crybaby who needs to grow up. This may be true, may almost certainly be true, most definitely IS true where you, personally, are concerned, but is that the only answer?

    We now delve into the realm of the unquantifiable, the mystical, the probably completely stupid. Could it be that there are people who are, through no fault of their own, unlucky? I don't mean unlucky in the sense that being born in North Korea as opposed to Grosse Pointe is unlucky, though I suppose that too could be food for thought. Perhaps you're born in Pyongyang, but your parents are bigshots in Kim Jong Il's cult of personality, you live in relative comfort (food AND shelter), you meet and marry the girl of your dreams and raise a happy family. Whearas the Grosse Pointe native gets run over by the Porsche his next-door neighbor bought his daughter on her Sweet Sixteen. Luck, one could say, is a matter of perception.

    But let me get back to the point I was going to make. Luck could perhaps be defined as an event that flies in the face of statistical probability. You go all-in with AQ, and the other guy turns over AA. Rags on the flop and you're dead. The queen on the turn serves only to stick yet another knife in your heart, this one a blade of false hope. But when that third queen comes on the river, you feel the touch of Divine Providence. The fact that the other guy is trying to slash his wrists with the dealer button doesn't change the fact that, for some reason, you got incredibly lucky. You don't know why, but you did. And it feels good.

    Are there people who are simply luckier than others? Not just in the macro (born in affluence compared to born in poverty) but in a micro sense as well. We all know poor souls who always have cars with dents left by other careless drivers, whose grass is always invaded by ultra-hardy weeds, whose few minor extra-legal pecadillos always seem to attract the attention of law enforcement. Then there are the bastards who always win radio call-in contests, who elude a dozen DUI checkpoints after a Lost Weekend-caliber bender, who screw the principal's jailbait daughter in a Confessional without getting caught. They're just lucky. We'd like to be like them. Even if we know we never will.

    Is luck a zero-sum game? Is there some cosmic reservoir maintained by leprechauns that must always be kept at the same level? I don't think so. Baseball legend Branch Rickey once said, "Luck is the residue of design". To a certain extent, you can manufacture luck where there was none before. If you're in a poker tournament and you're playing smart and accumulating chips and not pissing them away on lamebrain hands, you give yourself more opportunities to not only survive mistakes, but to get paid off big by getting lucky.

    That's statistics throwing its weight around again. But it's much easier to quantify luck in a poker game than in life writ large. Is luck in fact quantifiable, could it be statistically analyzed if we had the means to gather a large enough and accurate enough sample? Are there people who are just luckier (or unluckier) than others? Or is luck, like so many of the mysterious and unseen forces of life (like love) totally random, capricious, and ultimately unknowable?

    The poets among us would say that without the mystery of luck and love, life itself would be dull and predictable. Poets are, for the most part, irritating wack-jobs who should go out and get real jobs. It isn't so much the idea that life would be dull and predictable if we truly understood luck and love, since life is mostly dull and predictable anyway. No, the really horrible thing would be if there was some kind of scan or blood test that would tell you that, no matter what you did, you were gonna be unlucky. And that blonde who makes your heart go pitter pat? She's gonna marry your best friend. The one you actually hate and only pretend to like. Now go have a nice life.

    The concept of Predestination is one I think most folks today would actively resist. The idea that our ultimate salvation is determined not by the life we lead, but whatever God happens to decide, rankles the free-thinking mind. If that's the case, why be good? Why not surrender to our basest instincts and desires? While this sort of moral abdication happens every Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale, most God-fearing people think its a good idea to hedge their bets and live a decent life too. Predestination takes luck totally out of the equation, since God has already decided whether you're going to hit your flush even before the river card is dealt. Before the hand even begins. Before you're even BORN. A belief in predestination makes playing poker less an exercise in skill, guile and aggression than simply waiting patiently for the inevitable to, well, evit.

    Predestination seems even fishier to my off-kilter brain than statistics. I'm perfectly willing to believe that God, Whomever He is, is basically unknowable. My puny intellect cannot hope to grasp the enormity of the Almightly. But the brain He did give me doesn't like the idea that He created the Universe only to have us play out a script He already wrote. What's the point? God, Einstein famously said, does not play dice with the Universe. I'd like to think that the Universe isn't a play He wrote, all the lines already scripted. Because if Life was a play, it probably would have been cancelled by now. Woody Allen once said that he didn't think that God was evil, that the worst thing you could say about Him is that basically He's an underachiever. I think we should cut God some slack and not assume that our stupid behavior is all His doing.

    But is luck one of His creations, or is it just the inability for our tiny minds to grasp the grand machinery of the Universe? Not only is the human lifespan microscopically short on the cosmic scale, our attention spans can be measured in mere seconds, even less if your name is A.J. Soprano. Perhaps what we see as one person's bad luck is simply that person's inability to live a long-enough life for the cosmic variance to even out. That's small solace to the person who has a piano fall on them, but it might give some comfort to the non-squashed among us.

    On of my favorite TV shows in the Britcom Red Dwarf, and on one episode Lister and Kryten and the Cat discover the lab of a doctor who experiemented with "positive" viruses. The idea is that, just as the flu is a virus that can make you sick, there are viruses that actually cause beneficial changes. They find a virus for sexual magnetism ("Sexual magnetism is a virus?" preens the Cat. "Then call the Mayo Clinic, 'cause I got a terminal case!"), and also find a virus for luck. The idea that luck is a disease is of course totally ludicrous, and would be totally counter-productive if the germ was contagious. If you're on a hot streak, hitting hand after hand, pretty soon you'd know that the underserving scumballs next to you will trying to pick up your "illness" by doing God knows what. Most viruses are best transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids, and I think most of us would like to limit our fluid-exchanges with those we WANT to exchange them with. You get a desperate grinder at your table watching you hit flush after flush and you're liable to be on the receiving end of a most unwelcome French kiss. Or worse. Let's cross viral infection off the list.

    So does luck exist? Maybe, like beauty, it's all in the eye of the beholder. Maybe luck is just standard deviation by another name. Maybe luck is just a byproduct of our tiny brains not comprehending reality. Maybe luck is something that just happens to other people.

    But for those hardy types who believe that they are the only captain of their souls, that luck is just the refuge of the weak and the stupid and the desperate, let me (again) quote from Gregg Easterbrook's blog. Last September the University of Chicago sponsored a conference at which cosmologist tried to establish plans for locating "dark matter" and "dark energy". What's dark matter and dark energy? Good question. No one knows. But current calculations estimate that 90% of the Universe is made up of it. Studies have shown that galaxies at the outer reaches of the Universe are not only speeding away from us, they're accelerating. Something is making all those stars rush away from us, some force that is much, much stronger than gravity. As Easterbrook says, "An energy strong enough to push the entire universe is pulsing through your body right now; you can't feel it, and science has no idea how it works or where it originates. How many other nonmaterial forces might there be?".

    How many indeed? I'm not some New Age nutball, I don't think that God speaks directly to Pat Robinson, and I don't think aliens built the pyramids. But I'd like to think that there is an even deeper, richer Universe than the one we currently perceive, a "reality" that, for the moment, we lack the insight or tools to appreciate. A humble poker player like myself will leave that task to the scientists and mathematicians. To them I can only say, good luck.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2004

    The dream is over...

    I have another long-winded poker essay coming along, but it isn't done yet and I'm in a mind to post SOMETHING. Iggy is back so my readership is probably down 64%, but I still need to keep my content fresh. So, here goes.

    First the bad news--as you can see, I've removed the "Gene Bromberg for President" link on this page, because I've decided to withdraw from the race. I know, I know, so many of you had high hopes for cushy jobs in a Bromberg Administration, and I too had big plans for this country and, indeed, the world. But I really don't have time to write, work, play poker, socialize, AND run for Prez. It came down to either ditch the poker or leave the race. It was not a difficult decision.

    The good news--the other day I got an email from two-time WPT finalist Andy Bloch. I posted an item about Andy awhile ago and he read it and, surprisingly, liked it. If you've been reading about Richard Brodie's WPT adventures (of course you are) you know that Andy has yet to make a return to the TV table this year. This may be in part because Andy was arrested last year protesting the war and will be arguing his case to the DC Court of Appeals. He also gave a speech at Harvard Law School this past Wednesday and said he might mention a few things I wrote in my post. So I may not be elected President, but at least some of my wisdom will trickle down to the Future Leaders of America. Unless they all decide poker sounds like a better career than the law and follow Andy's lead. Let's hope they do.

    Before I get to the poker content, let me comment on the recent testimony before the 9/11 commission by both Richard Clarke and Condoleezza Rice. I listened to what they had to say and what we did and didn't do in the days leading up to 9/11, and I'm reminded of the very end of Franco Zeffarelli's movie of Romeo and Juliet. The two lovers lie in their caskets, their grieving families gathered in the square, and the Prince, sorrowful but obviously furious that the Capulet-Montague strife has resulted in this tragedy, shouts, "All are punished!", an admonision that everyone there, every heavy heart, bears some responsiblity for what happened. Including himself, for not having ended the feud.

    There is more than enough blame to go around for 9/11. Ignoring the obvious point that the terrorists on board those planes and al-Qaeda in general are ultimately responsible, neither the Bush Administration nor the Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, or Carter Administrations can say their policies did much to prevent the desire or ability of Islamic extremists to attack the US. Rice had an interesting line in her opening remarks, that "the terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them". In the past 25 years, the United States was been the target of many horrible attacks--the seizure of the US embassy in Iran, the Achille Lauro hijacking, the bombing of the Marine headquarters in Beirut, the bombing of the airliner over Lockerbie, the Khobar Towers attacks, the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the USS Cole--which leads me to wonder, why did it take the deaths of 3,000 people and $100 billion in economic losses to take this seriously.

    The answer is that we as a nation didn't take it seriously. Oh, we got in high dudgeon every few years, over the Ayatollah Khomeni or Gaddafi or Saddam Hussain, but the idea of an actual long-term military response to the problem wasn't even on the table. We didn't invade Iraq in 1991 to root out terrorism, and when the Marine barracks got hit we pulled out of Lebanon. The attacks came overseas, against people and targets who, in our collective unconscious, had put themselves in harm's way. It was terrible, it demanded a response...but go to war?

    I agree with what Christopher Hitchens has said, that the attacks on 9/11 were absolutely the dumbest thing that al-Qaeda could have done. Just as with Pearl Harbor, the sleeping giant has awoken, and no longer will terrorists have the luxury of patience. People with guns are coming for them with a vigor they've never experienced before, and even if they manage to pull off attacks like the ones in Bali, Riyadh, and Madrid, the battle will not be abandoned. If you'll allow a poker metaphor, the attacks on 9/11 was an all-in bet by the dark forces who prefer chaos and slavery to freedom and dignity, and the bet was called.

    And must continue to be called. The situation in Iraq is fluid and dangerous, and will continue to be that way for years. The Bush Administration should be called to task for it's handling of the war and its aftermath, because through arrogance and an astonishing lack of intellectual flexibility the problems in Iraq are far worse than they might otherwise have been. There's also the tiny issue of whether we attacked Iraq because of legitimate security concerns or because Bush had a bee in his bonnet about Iraq from the get-go. Whether our national security would have been better served by letting Iraq sit a bit while we chewed up al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and beyond is a question deserving a Commission of its own. If al-Qaeda pulls off another spectacular attack on American soil while our troops are stuck in Iraq fighing Sunni and Shiite militias and foreign fighters and God knows who else, the question of why we're in Iraq in the first place will become as serious a question as what we did or didn't do before 9/11.

    But I've also been disgusted by many Democatic criticisms of the war, which have been at times so idiotic you'd think they were quotes planted by Karl Rove. Ted Kennedy calling the war in Iraq "Bush's Vietnam" was appalling. Don't they want to defeat Bush? There are ways of criticizing the Administration's conduct that don't pander to the most pea-brained among us, but you don't hear arguments like that.

    And that fact, ultimately, is a big reason why I wanted to run for President in the first place. Partisan politics have become so poisonous they've compromised the national security of the United States. When Bill Clinton ordered the Tomahawk missile strike against al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan all you heard were Republicans saying that Clinton was trying to deflect attention from the breaking Monica Lewinsky scandal. "Wag the Dog" was the perjorative term used to denigrate the attacks, based on the recent movie. The attacks were ultimately unsuccessful. An ground assault by Special Forces backed up by air strikes may have been more effective, but that option probably wasn't even considered because of the political backlash that would have followed.

    In his blog today Gregg Easterbrook describes what may have happened had George Bush actually taken the steps required to prevent 9/11 and decaptiate al-Qaeda. There would have been screaming, frothing at the mouth, and rending of garments. An unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation, the rounding up of 20 young Muslims who came to this country to learn how to fly? Yet another right-wing assault on personal freedom, a nascent police state making it's first move, the opening steps toward a new Imperial America. Would anyone have believed that a catastrophe had just been averted? I doubt it.

    We're fighting the war Bush described when he addressed the nation after the attacks. It's gonna be a long, messy slog. It won't be over in a year. Or two years. It might not be over for a generation. Or two. Until the Middle East and Africa and other parts of the world where poverty and oppression are the rule become more prosperous and free there will always be the danger of some radicalized and amoral group showing the world they exist the only way they know how--by killing people. The current Administration has learned that the military part of the War on Terror is the easy part. No force on earth can resist the armed forces of the United States. The hard part, the part that may prove to be the biggest challenge this nation has ever faced, is bringing the ideals of freedom and liberty to people who, in large part, hate our guts, either because of what we did in the past or what we're doing to them right now. It's not going to be easy, and it's going to take a very, very, very long time. And we have to do it.

    OK...I think I'll hold off on the poker stuff till later. Go get some fish, maybe have a beer, play some cards. I'll solve the rest of the world's problems after dessert.

    Sunday, April 04, 2004

    Well, the food was good, anyway

    When you play in a poker tournament and the best thing you can say is that the buffet was good, you know you've had a tough day. As I did yesterday. I'd like to say I played brilliantly and got knocked out on a terrible beat, but only half of that is true. I did get killed on the river, but I certainly didn't come with my A-game. Or B. Maybe D-minus.

    The tournament was held at the Highland Country Club, a place I drove by hundreds of times when I used to live in this section of the 'Burgh. Never went inside the club, of course, tho the golf course looked nice, if a bit hilly. So it was neat to actually invade the posh interior of a place I'd normally be thrown out of on the spot. The tournament was held in the main ballroom, fifteen long tables that were covered by green-felt-covered toppers. You had to be careful if you were sitting on the ends, because if you put too much weight on the overhanding corners you could upset the whole table. Wish I'd thought of that.

    I got there early and scoped out the scene. I was pretty keyed up, determined to play well and finish in the money. The folks running the tournament were very friendly and hospitable and obviously knew what they were doing. Unlike me--I always seemed to be standing in someone's way, either dealers carrying chips or waitresses bringing boxes of doughnuts. I decided to sit in a $20 single-table tournament just to get out of the way.

    When I play with my uncles and cousins my Uncle Bob invariably wins the first hand, and he always says, "You can't win 'em all if you don't win the first one". So the very first hand I look down and find Big Slick. I raise it and get three callers. An ace on the flop and I bet out. Fold, fold, fold, and I take down my very first tournament pot. Rather pleased with myself. Until I realized that there were no straight or flush draws out there and I might have checked and trapped someone. Oh well, the chips were in my stack and there was nothing to apologize for.

    A few hands later I had Ad8d. I called along with four others and two diamonds appeared on the flop. The guy next to me went all-in with a short-stack, and calling him only cost me a bit more than I'd won that first hand. I called, and he turned over A-Q. I didn't catch my flush and he doubled up. I didn't get a decent hand for an orbit, and during that time the blinds increased. I paid my blinds and pretty soon they went up AGAIN. I didn't have many chips left and knew I'd have to play my next good hand. Which I did--I was dealt A-J in the big blind and went all-in. Two callers, who had enough chips to cover me. The guy to my left, who'd beat me earlier, made a big bet when a queen appeared on the board and the other guy folded. We flipped over our cards, and he had A-Q again. The jack I caught on the river did me no good, and I was out.

    Out, but heartened. The quality of play had been sub-Party. Sub-Party on a Saturday night. One guy got knocked out of one mini-game, sat down in ours, and got knocked out when he went all-in on the third hand with A-5 unsuited and the flop showing K-J-7. The other guy had a king and he was out again. Most of the players tossed in bets holding cards I wouldn't be caught dead in a ditch with. There were a few players I thought weren't gambling like drunken sailors, but this was certainly not going to be a tight, tense affair. I talked to my friend Matt, who had shown up after I got knocked out, and resolved to batten down the hatches and prepare for a long period of folding.

    I sat at my table and looked over my prey. Two guys were talking about watching poker on TV and wanting to give this a try. They both hoped they'd last an hour. One player, who looked like Truman Capote in a baseball cap, obviously had no clue what he was doing. He folded out of turn, asked if he was allowed to bet, and didn't seem to be having an especially good time. I wondered what the hell he was doing there. The player two to my left was a high-school kid (the fundraiser was for their wrestling team) named "Santino", who told the dealer he could call him "Sonny". I resisted to urge to ask where Michael and Fredo were, assuming that was a joke he'd probably heard about 800 times by now. Plus, for all I knew, he DID have brothers named Michael and Fredo, a sister named Connie, and an adopted German-Irish brother named Tom Hagen. As the kids say these days, I didn't want to go there.

    The player directly to my right was your typical aggressive gambler, he wasn't there to wait patiently for good cards, he was there to play. He was in just about every hand, and took down a couple nice pots with big raises. After about 10 minutes a guy from the table behind us yelled to him, "Hey, you're still in? Good job!".

    The player to my right was an older gentleman who also played a lot of hands--and won the biggest early pot of the day. He and three of the more clueless players went down to the river, and one of the other guys turned over a queen-high flush. The guy to my right showed a boat, tens full of eights. This gave him a nice early stack, and he started betting and raising pretty aggressively.

    How about yours truly? Well, sandwiched between the two most active players at the table I didn't get much action myself. I did one one hand--I had Q-9 in the big blind, and a queen appeared on the board. I bet $150 and instantly regretted it, because if I was raised I'd have to throw my hand away, a hand I felt was the best one at the moment. Capote called me, and king popped on the turn. I checked, he bet $100, and I called. Another beautiful queen showed on the river, and when I tossed in a $500 chip he mucked. But even as I stacked my chips I berated myself. What if he'd gone all in? This guy could have had pocket kings and played them this way. $500 was too big a bet if I was beat OR if I had the best hand. Oh well.

    I folded, folded, folded. Five hands in a row I had 10-garbage. No problem, this was how I was going to play early on, I'd gather some chips and THEN get more aggressive. We started with $5000 in chips and the blinds were only $25-50, so I wasn't concerned. Thing is, the blinds doubled every 15 minutes or so. It didn't take me long to realize that at that rate I'd need to get some chips fast or else be blinded to the felt post-haste.

    I watched the action and was amazed at some of the plays. There was one hand where four diamonds were showing after the turn card. There were three players still in, and one bet $500. Call, call. The last card was a blank, the same player bet $500 again, call, fold. The two remaining players turned up their cards...and neither had a diamond. The guy who led out had Q-3 offsuit, no diamonds, and won with a pair of queens. I don't know what the other guy had and I don't think I want to know.

    That hand, alas, might have precipitated my downfall. In early position I looked down and saw A-J unsuited. AJ had killed me earlier in the day, but for $100 it was worth a flutter. No one raised and five of us saw the flop come Q-J-3. I checked, two other guys folded, and the player who had won last hand with Q-3 bet $200. Another fold and the action was on me. I called. Sure, he might have a queen--but he also might have a trey. Or, better yet, a jack, meaning I had him outkicked. The next card was a deuce. He bet $500. I thought about it...and called. Gene, why did you call? Raise or fold, raise or fold. Did Brunson teach you nothing?

    The last card was an eight. He bet $1000. You see where this is going, don't you? I called, turned over my jacks, and he showed me 9-10. He'd had an open-end straight draw and filled it on the river. My instincts had been right, he didn't have me beat, he needed one of eight cards to fall to beat me--and he got it. I could have pushed him out with a raise but I didn't. I could have, and should have, saved myself the grand by realizing he had a ten. I didn't. I pissed away half my stack on one terrible hand.

    The director came around and told the dealer that his table's shortstack was to be moved to a new table. The shortstack was me. I was at a table with at least 5 terrible players and I was the shortstack. I moved to my new table, and saw to my dismay that I was at a table with guys who not only seemed to have a lot more on the ball than my previous playmates, but also had big stacks of chips. It didn't occur to me until later that I'd gotten screwed--why take a guy with a low chip-count and put him at a table with six guys who had more chips than the chip leader at my old table. I learned that two previous players in my seat had already busted out, and another two players had also been bounced. So I was at a table where there were good players, with lots of chips, and I had by far the fewest. This, as they say, sucked.

    I did my usual fold, fold, fold. There were some big hands--the guy next to me went all-in and caught his flush on the river, then the guy who lost that pot won a big one when he made a full-house on the river and smacked TWO players who had flushes. I just sat there and drank it all in and hoped a time would come when I'd hold the nuts and these guys would come gunning for me. There was little use for subtlety--if you bet, you'd probably get called.

    Which I learned a few hands later. I was in the big blind and saw K-8 unsuited. No one raised it so I got to see a rare flop. And a rare flop it was--K-8-Q. I looked at it, the dealer said the action was to me, and I frowned and checked. Not an Oscar-winning performance, but definitely worth a Golden Globe nomination. The player next to me, now flush with chips, bet $500. Call, fold, call...and now the action was back to me. There was already about $1800 in the pot, enough to get me back over $4K and back in business. I didn't want to give someone a chance to catch me, so I went all-in. I doubted anyone was holding KQ, and if they were, more power to them.

    This was the only instance in the whole time I played that anyone check-raised. Fold, fold...I waited for the third guy to fold and when I looked at him found him staring me down. He was glaring at me, trying to get a read on me, and this is when I think it finally hit me that I may not become a top poker pro--I nearly bust out laughing. I mean, he was giving me the full Howard Lederer Vulcan mind-meld, and I nearly wet my pants with mirth. "Dude, I'm sorry, but you aren't going to get inside THIS head," I wanted to say while tapping the 'ol coconut. He finally realized that my face, now a blank mask of scorn, didn't promise good things if he called. He mucked.

    The last guy in the hand was next to me, and he looked at his cards and said, "I have to call you". He had about 8K, and it cost him about $2500 to call the bet. He flipped over K9. Would you risk about a third of your stack with a nine kicker? Me either. He saw my K8, was happy for about half a second, and then realized I had 2 pair. I took a deep breath and prayed for blanks.

    A six on the turn answered one prayer. I forgot to issue another. The river was another queen. There was a sort of murmur around the table, and the dealer announced I won. I knew the truth even before the first voice said, "Wait a second, wait a second". The paired queens on the board made my eights worthless. The winning hand was now kings and queens and... the nine kicker.

    I was out.

    I couldn't believe it. I'd been an 86% favorite before the last card came up. Only a queen or a nine could save him. I'd played the hand as well as I could, and I was out. I didn't bitch, I didn't knock over my chair or throw my coat. I didn't belittle the guy who beat me. I shook his hand, walked over to tell Matt I was out, and I headed straight to the bar.

    That first sip of beer helped a lot, and I got out my notebook and scribbled some notes. My first entry, while not on a literary par with Shakespeare, I think sums up my feelings perfectly. I wrote, "Losing sucks".

    The first beer went down fast, as did the second. The 2003 World Series was playing on the TV, ironically enough, and I watched Chris Moneymaker knock out Johnny Chan for the 50th time. Moneymaker enters his first live tournament and wins the biggest prize in poker. I enter my first live tournament and play like I've got my head up my ass. The Capote guy was still in. I was out. I couldn't believe it. I really, really believe I was one of the best players in the tournament. I hadn't played like it, and now I was done. I felt disgusted with myself. I was consumed with self-loathing. I drank some more beer, smacked my lips, and came to a very important conclusion, "Ah, sometimes shit happens".

    The second beer made me feel a lot better. A guy from my original table came in, looking like he wanted to throw a chair through the window. He'd been knocked out when a guy holding 2-9 offsuit called him all the way to the river, then spiked a nine on the river. "He called fucking $3000 with absolutely nothing, and then hits his card on the fucking river," the guy snarled.

    "Take it easy," the bartender said, gesturing with his hands that we should turn down the volume. There were other folks eating lunch in the dining area, some older women club members fresh from the links who probably wouldn't appreciate hearing the F-world over their linguine. He apologized and gave me a PG rated version of the hand.

    Another guy came in looking like someone kidnapped his dog and mailed him the tail along with the ransom note. "I had 2-3, flopped a full house, went all in, and the guy turned over pocket kings. He caught his king on the river," he said, shrugging his shoulders. He ordered a big gin and tonic and went back to the ballroom.

    Matt came by to hit the head and said that he was shortstacked, so I grabbed my stuff and watched him play his final hand. He had Kc9c and went all in, about $2000. The woman to his left called, as did the man to his right, who had so many chips a call was obvious. The flop came J-9-3, giving Matt a pair. Junk on the turn, the man on the right bet, the woman on the left called. Another Jack on the river, giving Matt two pair with a king kicker. The man bet, the woman called, and she turned over...AK, meaning she had squat. Matt showed his two pair, he was THIS CLOSE to tripling up...and the man turned over pocket tens. So close, and yet so far away.

    We went back to the bar and I had another beer. We signed up for another $20 tournament in the hopes of getting our buy-in back, and soon I was back in the fray, this time fortified by forty ounces of God's sweet nectar. I took a nice pot from Matt when my A-3 blossomed into a full house, beating his A-10. Dinner was announced in the middle of our game, so I snuck off after folding and loaded up with wings, hot sausage, a strange but tasty pasta dish with tomato sauce, onions, peppers, olives, kidney beans, and what seemed like pulled pork. Also had a pastrami sandwich and potato salad. And a piece of a REALLY good cake, vanilla with this chocolate icing in the middle. Good spread, like I said.

    Matt got knocked out, and the blinds went up so fast it made the game a total crapshoot. We only started with $100 in chips, but the blinds were soon $64-$128--as you can see, patience was no longer an option. I made yet another blunder--I had A-10 and the flop came K-K-9. The betting was checked to me, and I should've gone all-in. I would have taken in a nice pot, enough for me to survive another round with ease, giving me that many more chances to catch a hand. I checked. PWOOOOOOCK-PWOCK-PWOOOOOCK. I didn't get my ace on the turn and the hand was taken away from me.

    The last hand was against this guy who kept lecturing the dealers on what to do and pretty much bossed the table. I had Q-5 and, since my blind took up my stack, decided to play it. He called me and turned over 5-3. "Got you dominated!" I crowed, and watched a three come on the flop. I got up, stretched my legs, and watched my poker day come to an end. One terrible hand, one bad beat, one hand that was totally beyond my control. I left Matt trying to win back some of his buy-in at the 3-6 tables and headed for the homestead.

    So, was it worth it? My bankroll will be down to a minimum, but I feel I can get it back up again. But it was worth it. I had fun. I only won three pots in 5 hours, probably only saw the flop 8 times. But it was good to play against human beings instead of computer avatars. Not all good--there is, I found, a reason why Vanity Fair and GQ don't feature amateur poker players often in their glossy pictures. There are some, uh, aesthetically challenged people who play cards. The game itself no doubt contributes--you're indoors, in dark, smoky conditions, eating fatty food and not moving around much--but still, some folks there weren't even trying. I know now why so many poker players wear track suits--you sit without moving for hour after hour in jeans and see how comfy YOUR crotch is--but wearing sweatpants that look like you wore them cleaning out the garage last year and never washed them isn't something Martha Stewart would approve of.

    There were several female players, a few quite fetching, and one woman player gave me an idea for the story/novel/whatever I'm writing. I was having some trouble visualizing a character, and now I've got her in my head. When I left she was still in the tournament, still had a nice stack of chips in front of her. I resisted the urge to tell her that I'm going to commit her to immortality in my fiction, as that would probably have creeped her out.

    Will I play live again? Sure, sometime. With summer coming I'll be playing less, but I'm sure I'll return to the tables for another go. I'll make some changes in my play. Stay away from ace-jack, for one. Buy a nice, sleek track suit so I look like a junior member of the Soprano crime family. Remember that raising is totally legal. And save room for two pieces of cake.

    Thursday, April 01, 2004

    Just call me Andy Glazer

    This Saturday I'll probably be playing in my first live no-limit tournament. They have these charity no-limit tournaments here in the 'Burgh (tho, I believe, its not a criminal scam like the ones in Cleveland Iggy posted an article on awhile back). The buy-in is $100, which I'll take from my massive bankroll and try for a big payday. (Almost certainly) failing that, I'm going to write an article about the tournament and get something published. Hey, if I do that, can I write the buy-in off my taxes as a business expense?

    I'm excited about playing live, tho I'm no doubt riven with tells that will give my opponents a huge advantage. Then again, they've never seen me, I've never seen them, so we should be even. I'll get my mirrored aviator shades and fedora and intimate them that way. Or, not. I think I'll just play au natural and take my chances that way, rather than look like a WPT-wanna-be loser.

    Hopefully I'll last long enough to get some info for a piece, although I would of course have no problems with placing in the money and coming back next week to write my article. The tourney is held at a country club near where I used to live, and a player I now work with (who I've been studying the last few days looking for tells) said they have a nice card room and overall swanky facilities. He's playing as well, and assures me that the fuzz won't break down the doors and cart us off the the hoosegow.

    I've only played in two multi-table tournaments--the Grublog Classic and last week's PJK tourney. I placed 1st and 3rd, good results that unfortunately cannot be used to accurately predict how I'll do Saturday. Anyone who reads this and has any advice on how to play live tourneys as opposed to online let me know. I'm thinking about getting a T-shirt made up that reads, "I'm in your head". I think that would help.

    My strategy will be the same as it's been the two times I played online--get in the money and worry about winning then. I'm patient by nature and have no problems folding for hours at a time (well, maybe not hours), so I want to take some time to see what I'm up against and then start making my moves. I don't know if these things are loose or tight or in-between, tho I heard on 150-player tournament took 8 hours to finish, so this isn't a Party-caliber nutfest. I'll have to use my intelligence guided by experience, I guess.

    I have volleyball tonight, so probably no poker tonight. Actually, played basketball tonight and nearly ended my volleyball playing for a few months, my right leg locked up and I thought I'd blown out my knee. I'm grossly out of shape, and the floor was slippy (some Pittsburghese there) and I think my knee went a little out of whack and my thigh and calf muscles seized up. It took me like 5 steps before I finally staggered to the floor and my knee went "click!" and returned to normal position. It was a weird feeling, I thought for a second I was passing out, and when I hit the floor I was waiting for the big pain to hit, but it never did, and everything seems to be OK. My thigh and calf are sore as hell, but my knee's fine.

    But I digress. I may play a little tonight, but doubtful. Tomorrow I'll play a few SNGs to sharpen my no-limit claws, read a little Brunson, and get mentally prepared to crush my opponents. I have to work on peeking at my cards, at acting deliberately, at making appropriate raises, at playing aggressive. Dropping a hundred bucks only to get knocked out on a bad beat 15 minutes in would royally suck. Still, that's why I'm attending as a journalist/player.

    I've been on an ice-cold streak, I think I ended March only up $20 or so. But I've won a little bit the last few sessions, and last night ended up a whole $5 thanks to a hand I think I played rather well. I was in the BB and was dealt K2 offsuit. No one raised and I checked this massive hand in the hopes of hitting the flop. And hit it I did--K-K-6. Here I did something I thought subtle and clever--I clicked the button to automatically check, giving the illusion that I was disgusted by the flop and was merely waiting for a bet so I could fold and get on with the next hand. There were 4 of us in, and the last guy bet a buck. We all called it. An ace on the flop, making 3 hearts on the board, and again I checked. The original bettor tossed in three bucks. Fold, fold, and I smoooooth-called. Well, there was still the possibilty the guy had K-3 or something and was afraid I had him outkicked...until a third king popped up on the river.

    Here I made a play that I'm sure many will find controversial. I checked. Now, I'd given this guy the lead the whole hand, and I feared that if I bet out he'd muck. So I checked, and sure enough he bet another $3. I paused a bit, decided how much money he'd part with, and raised him $6. I didn't think he'd call if I put him all-in or made a giant bet, so $6 I thought was the max bet he'd feel compelled to call. Which he did, and I showed him the case king. That's the only nice hand I won, and it gave me the $5 profit I banked. Felt good.

    So come on, you experienced B&M players, advise me! Should I refrain from showering so that my rancid odeur distracts those next to me? Should I play the whole tournament speaking like Scotty Nguyen ("Michelob...keep it coming, baaayyyy-beeeee!")? Gimme some help here! get this widget Please visit Pokernews site for more poker news, poker strategy articles or poker rules.

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